Poll Question 030 – Do you prefer online distribution systems or normal retail?

11th May 2007

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half Life 1, 2 and 3
Introduction

Steam certainly made aI change the way we think about buying games. Plenty of people, including many PP readers, are not too happy with the concept as it is currently implemented.

To keep the question a little simpler imagine that you want to buy a game and it is the same price vis an online distribution system or through normal retail.

Do you prefer online distribution systems or normal retail?

Online Distribution Systems

No doubt it is generally very easy to buy and download a game but that’s not true for everybody. There’s also the added issues of online verification and plenty of other issues. I think that so far we haven’t really seen the idea exploited properly.

Normal Retail

I LOVE BOXES! There, I’ve said it. The first step to getting help is to admit you have a problem. I love also sorts of boxes, especially game boxes. Not the simple DVD cases but the cardboard printed ones! I also love printed manuals, posters etc etc. I’m sure you can see where this is going. I want normal retail. Or perhaps I could buy the game via an online distribution system, download it and then go to a shop and collect by boxes!

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30 Comments

  1. Any issues I had with Steam seem to have gone now it more developed, and I now have no problems with it, it’s cool to have any game available on it accessible without having to worry about the disks breaking or anything.

    I also find it really convenient to have all Steam games in one place for easy access. It would be really awesome if steam let you add the executables of non-steam games to it at some point.

  2. zeroth404

    Steam originally was a piece of crap. But nowadays, I really enjoy what it’s become. It’s nice, but I never want to sacrifice hard copies, manuals, and retail boxes for it. That’s why I still buy all my steam games in stores, instead of through steam.

  3. zeroth404

    Valve won’t always be around, either. nor will steam.

    I love my hard-copy.

  4. I think that the hard-copies will always be useful for backup, but I enjoy being able to play a game without the disc. I don’t really know if actual selling of the games is good, but I enjoy the auto-updates and no-disc gaming.

  5. The two things aren’t mutually exclusive. One should be able to buy a game online, download it immediately, and have a retail box shipped.

    When I started using Steam a few years ago, I became infuriated with it at various times, because it worked terribly. “What’s that? You paid money for something you didn’t get and can’t use? Oh well, too bad, so sad, bye-bye. You could post a message in the forums and get derided for not admiring this lovely system that never fails to take your money, but often fails to deliver the product.’

    Isn’t that just too irritating? The system that charges you money never, ever, EVER fails! Everything else is a coin toss at best. But the payment system is like the Rock of Gibraltar, except not as soft.

    AHEM! Sorry.

    I don’t have a complete idea of how Steam works, but I have a feeling that if my internet connection isn’t working, I won’t be able to play my games. That would not go over well with me.

    I hate the idea of some company (companies?) knowing each and every time I fire up a game, and how long I played it. It’s none of their business.

    As far as automatic updating goes, yeah that’s nice, but it has nothing to do with the purchasing system. Any game could be made to automatically update. All sorts of applications these days offer this functionality–why don’t games? You don’t need a full-blown system like Steam for this sort of thing.

    So I do like the idea of being able to buy games online and download them immediately, but I don’t like the nonsense that so far has gone along with it. And that nonsense is unnecessary. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to order a retail box along with your download; there’s no reason your game playing should be monitored to any extent; and there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to play (or develop) even without an internet connection.

  6. Oh, and even if you can’t (or choose not to) order a retail box when you purchase a download, you ought to be able to back up the game to CD/DVD discs. If there is some way to do this with Steam, I’d be shocked.

  7. There’s little doubt that Steam offers other benefits and problems of just an Online Distribution System. That’s why I tried to keep the question simple.

    The two things aren’t mutually exclusive. One should be able to buy a game online, download it immediately, and have a retail box shipped.

    That’s exactly what I said and want.

    Regarding Steam Backup, try:
    Right Click your Game List and choose Backup Game Files…

    and then visit:
    http://www.marcopolo.me.uk/hl2.html

  8. I much prefer retail copies. I think I pretty much agree whole heartedly with everything Chianti has stated. I purchased (through Steam) a game in which I actually met ALL the system requirements (shocking I know). They promptly & gladly took my money, I downloaded it, it wouldn’t work & they WOULD NOT issue me a refund. Very upsetting.

    I also think it’s nobody’s business of how long I’ve played a game. Then there’s always the risk of security & having your account hacked. I’ve never had this happen (knock on wood), but from everything I’ve read here on the posts & forums, it would probably convince me to never use Steam again.

    I, too, confess that I love the retail boxes, cd covers, & manuals/media that comes with them. I mean how big of a hassle can it be to be to actually play a game by insterting the disc?

    Oh, also, the chances of you being able to buy online content & also recieve a copy in the mail may never happen with Steam. Most places will give you an option of which you prefer. Do you know how much money Steam saves from not shipping out copies of retail games if they’re available for d/l online? Of course, if they DID start doing that, you can expect to pay more PLUS shipping & handling.

  9. There’s little doubt that Steam offers other benefits and problems of just an Online Distribution System. That’s why I tried to keep the question simple.

    Regarding Steam Backup, try:
    Right Click your Game List and choose Backup Game Files…

    Yeah, I read your post, but I guess I got carried away. I really am sorry about that. I sometimes get steamed when I think or talk about Steam. 🙂

    I knew about the backup function in Steam, but it doesn’t seem to do what I want it to. You still need an internet connection to play it, even if you restore from CD/DVD. I don’t want to get off track here. Sorry.

  10. JC

    I already got used to STEAM (after a loooong period of insanity); yet, I guess I prefer retail games.

  11. C’mon, face it, in the world of Web2/3, interoperability, persistant data, streams and feeds, online shopping, the box on the shelf is destined to pass. Everybody likes taking home a big shiny box, unpicking the film and opening it up to find…. a disc. Think of the planet, think how much rainforest and bushbabies will be saved. Ok, so digital distribution is a bit hit and miss, it’s early days. If you could slash your costs just by avoiding boxes and shops, wouldn’t you? It’s not as if the staff at the shop know what they’re talking about anyway. The biggest problem for most appears to be the lack of transportability between machines. How many people bought a copy of a certain game at the shop only to have to license it online and find it was tied to their hard drive? With flash ram getting ever cheaper (I can buy a 1Gb pen for about a fiver here, that’s more than in my beige box at a fraction of what it cost for my PC) transportability will still be feasable. A techie friend of mine has an XP installation, and a disc recovery ute and other tools on a pen drive for rescueing the PCs of the clueless. So, don’t be so recidivist. Embrace the binary revolution and, say goodbye to the resource costly box. Times they are a changing. Haven’t I already said that somewhere before?
    P.S. What I have found with this kind of debate about digital distribution and DRM amongst friends is the knowledge that it will become increasingly hard to rip off the Mega-Corps.
    P.P.S. Can I hear teeth grinding?

  12. I think that although Steam is revolutionary in it’s methods and operation, it gives no incentive for people to buy from it instead of retail. If they put down their prices a few dollars, especially with games such as Half-Life 2, they may have more success. This is because some of these games are often cheaper to buy retail than on Steam. For example, when I bought HL2, I bought the Game of the Year Edition, which came with HL2, CSS, HLDM, and Half-Life: Source all for about $30. This was around August of last year. There is no way to get those same games for that price. Half-Life 2 alone costs $30 while CSS costs $20. So I think the problem is that Valve is not competing with the stores well enough.

  13. the box on the shelf is destined to pass

    I disagree. Just because we are essentially buying data (Or the right to use that data) doesn’t mean that the box will disappear. There is the element of collectablity that a simple download doesn’t have.

    Think of the planet, think how much rainforest and bushbabies will be saved.

    Whilst I agree in principle I don’t think it is that simple. Think about how much electricity is used to download the millions of files. Every time I reinstall a game another computer has to be serving that information and whilst it’s possible to backup the data and restore it there is little incentive if I can simply download it against quite quickly.

    I understand ALL the supposed benefits of Steam and similar systems but, as somebody has already said, I still feel it has a long way to go.

  14. C’mon, face it, in the world of Web2/3, interoperability, persistant data, streams and feeds, online shopping, the box on the shelf is destined to pass. Everybody likes taking home a big shiny box, unpicking the film and opening it up to find…. a disc … If you could slash your costs just by avoiding boxes and shops, wouldn’t you?

    B&M stores aren’t going away. And since people use B&M stores, I can’t see them ever not offering games in some sort of retail packaging. Surely GameStop, Best Buy, and the other big retailers would take issue with the idea that retail packaging will be dispensed with in the near future.

    It’s not just about “slashing costs”. Some businesses don’t have the “costs” you’re talking about. If GameStop and Best Buy no longer had retail boxes to sell, they wouldn’t be “slashing costs”, they’d be “eliminating profit”. And the producers would certainly feel that as well.

    Nor will offline storage ever go away. There’s nothing particularly “recidivist” about wanting a product on a (semi-)permanent storage medium.

    I also think it’s a mistake to say that the demise of retail distribution is somehow inescapable. Surely the consumer will have a hand in this decision, one way or the other.

  15. [quote post=”3212″]Think of the planet, think how much rainforest and bushbabies will be saved.

    Whilst I agree in principle I don’t think it is that simple. Think about how much electricity is used to download the millions of files.[/quote][/quote]

    I almost responded to the environmental statement, but then I figured it was purely sarcastic. It seems obvious that running lots of server farms and increasing the power demand all along the line right to the downloader’s computer uses lots of electricity, which as I write this doesn’t come from nowhere.

  16. geekofalltrades

    You can’t beat an online distribution system for sheer convenience. But there is something very reassuring about having hard copies of your games.

  17. I have a confession…

    I’m a lazy bastard

    Online Distribution FTW!

  18. Chianti said most of what I wanted to say and I havent read all the posts as I just got home and geeze this is a popular topic.

    I hate steam for the fact you must have a internet connection just to play a game you purchased on cd.Yes you can click throu and get the offline mode but that only workks for a short time before you need to verify AGAIN.Its almost as bad as windows genuine advatage.Try and use peer gaurdian then start steam.It wont work because it cant call home.Who wants to wait 15 minutes to get a box that says do you wish to play offline ?

    The backup system of keeping your files is garbage also.You still need to activate it after.

    Another beef is the preload steam sends to my pc without asking me.I have HL source preloaded on 3 computors and I never asked for it.They just sent it.If I delete stuff they just resend it.

    I’m pretty drunk right now but I hate online subscriptions and I’m going to bed.Camping is a tuff job 🙂

  19. How many people bought a copy of a certain game at the shop only to have to license it online and find it was tied to their hard drive? With flash ram getting ever cheaper (I can buy a 1Gb pen for about a fiver here, that’s more than in my beige box at a fraction of what it cost for my PC) transportability will still be feasable.

    Thats all fine and dandy but try and find a game that installs on a 1 gig USB stick.Most games use between 3 and 9 gigs nowadays.STALKER was nearly 10 and the demo of alpha prime was 500 meg alone.Proper storage is away off yet so that its 100% rcoverable let alone store it on USB sticks.

  20. Ryan "Quakis" Rouse

    I don’t mind steam, but I prefer retail. Sometimes I download full, old games to check them out. I’d rather own the actual box and disk though and look out for them at cheap prices. If I even have the Episode One box here and wish to do the same with Episode Two/Three

  21. zeroth404

    You guy’s should see my huge collection of old-school large PC game boxes 🙂

    hard copy ftw, if I had to make a choice.

  22. Too bad there’s no big “industry” for collecting, selling, or even trading game boxes (or if there is, I’ve never heard about it). Like baseball cards, or pokemon cards, etc.

    Btw, I’ve seen it many times here, but what is “ftw”?

  23. FTW stands for “For the Win”, meaning that you believe something is the best or good.

  24. zeroth404

    trading boxes is a neat idea, but most of my boxes have sentimental value, I wouldn’t want to get rid of them.

    I know no other people that have boxes older than a year. this has nothing to do with the number of people I know :-/

    plus, long-distance trading is a no-no. the amount of damage to a box in the mail can be really bad, no matter how well you package it…

  25. It really depends on the game for me. For a game I love and am re-buying, or know I will like, I’ll get the boxed version for all the other things you mentioned in the poll 😀

    BUT, if I’m thinking about trying something new, and it’s on steam, it’s ten times more likely I’ll buy it. Why? Because it shows up in the list (plus all around any way you cut it), because buying online is more of an impulse thing for me, and because I can get pictures, reviews, metascore, etc. etc. etc. all in one place before making my decision, OR, do a quick googler searcher and find out more, and not have to travel.

    There are many times when I just browse the Steam store because I’m bored etc. and I’ve bought several game because of it, Dreamfall (an absolute winnder!) SiN (heard alot and said, screw it, I’ll by it before I think it) Eets (another great buy for people that like REAL puzzle games, plus, it’s got a level ediotr built in) and, most recently, XCOM: Terror of the Deep, for only $2.50!

    I like steam, I love steam. Only thing that annoys me about it is it’s propensity for errors that pop up in the development cycle of a mod.

  26. Nothing about ripping off the Mega-Corps? Anyway, I’m serious about the planet, mate. There is no way on this pretty Earth that material distribution is as friendly as digital. Don’t want to bog a fun shooter blog down with serious issues but, look up Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, etc. Think electronic box sat beside you connected to another down copper wire or fibre optic versus boxes, trucks, boats, planes, warehouses, roads, truck stops, shops, lighting, travel to work, catering… Aaaargh. I’m getting a headache. Sorry if us Brits can come across as a sarcastic, common language and all that. And… High capacity flash storage is more viable and nearer than you think. Anyway, over to you Peeps.

  27. SPY

    i can only agree with you PP, I also love to have the box of the game (every day I look at least one time at my bookshelves with the game boxes in it, haha). and with it, the posters, books, etc.
    therefore you will NEVER see me buy a game on line. beside this argument, I have heart to much time people complain that they did buy a game online, downloaded it, just to notice then that the reg.key didn’t work, or something else was wrong. with dvd/cd’s you don’t have this problem, so for me, I buy in a shop!!

    leon

  28. As long as I can make physical backups of my games, I don’t really have preference.

    There is a certain comfort in having a physical copy of the game, that no one else has any control over whether or not you can play it. At the same time, the convenience and low cost associated with online distribution just really can’t beat.

    Lately, I’ve been using Online Distribution almost exclusively, but I also haven’t spent more than $5 on any individual game.

  29. Amanda

    Normal retail. Why? Like you said, I love boxes. I keep all of my video game cases (along with books, CDs, and films) on my bookshelf and just looking at them from across the room is enjoyable! That said, yes, I do occasionally indulge in purchasing digital copies of games, but usually I end up buying a hard copy as well.

  30. I think it improved it over retail.. get rid of the middle man. cheaper (usually)..

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